J Leukoc Biol. 2021 Jan 19. doi: 10.1002/JLB.4COVR1020-698R. Online ahead of print.
Vitamin D, a key nutrient/prohormone classically associated with skeletal health, is also an important immunomodulator, with pleotropic effects on innate and adaptive immune cells. Outcomes of several chronic, autoimmune, and infectious diseases are linked to vitamin D. Emergent correlations of vitamin D insufficiency with coronavirus-induced disease 2019 (COVID-19) severity, alongside empirical and clinical evidence of immunoregulation by vitamin D in other pulmonary diseases, have prompted proposals of vitamin D supplementation to curb the COVID-19 public health toll. In this review paper, we engage an immunological lens to discuss potential mechanisms by which vitamin D signals might regulate respiratory disease severity in severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2) infections, vis a vis other pulmonary infections. It is proposed that vitamin D signals temper lung inflammatory cascades during SARS-CoV2 infection, and insufficiency of vitamin D causes increased inflammatory cytokine storm, thus leading to exacerbated respiratory disease. Additionally, analogous to studies of reduced cancer incidence, the dosage of vitamin D compounds administered to patients near the upper limit of safety may serve to maximize immune health benefits and mitigate inflammation and disease severity in SARS-CoV2 infections. We further deliberate on the importance of statistically powered clinical correlative and interventional studies, and the need for in-depth basic research into vitamin D-dependent host determinants of respiratory disease severity.